“Oh, yeah, St. Louis! I know that place.” I’m sure you do. “Sucks about the Rams leaving, doesn’t it?” Dude, that was seven years ago. I didn’t even care about sports back then. How are we most known for a team that chose not to stay with us?
Though I didn’t get into sports until the year of our lord, Two Thousand and Seven-Teen at the age of Thir-Teen, I love them. It’s one of my worst-kept secrets. And of course, as one who was raised in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, my sports fandom is tied completely to the franchises that reside in the town- the baseball Cardinals, the hockey Blues, and the newly founded soccer club St. Louis CITY.
Of course, not every sport is represented in the city. The (arguably, though it’s not a question for me) two biggest sports in this nation go unrepresented in the Lou, as there’s no NBA team in the city and no longer any NFL team as well (thanks, Kroenke.) Most residents of the city just pick a team nearby. The success of the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs has been an easy choice for football fandom (though I am a Packers fan) and the common choice of NBA team is the Boston Celtics, due to their star player Jayson Tatum being a St. Louis native (though again I differ in fandom; I chose to be an Oklahoma City Thunder fan.)
But for those teams that are in St. Louis, there’s a collective above-average mediocrity that is really unseen in any other city when it comes to their own teams. That is, at least, in my experience of being a fan, since the Cardinals are historically one of the best baseball teams ever and the Blues are historically awful. The two teams have decided to meet in the middle while I’ve bothered to care.
Go Crazy, Folks!
Baseball is a sport that’s grown on me in recent years. Always seeing it as boring, I found Cardinals games to be a drag. That’s quite a shame, considering me and my family would go to a game every summer. But my respect for the sport has grown over recent years, and that coincides completely with the trajectory of the Cardinals. Started out as mediocre, then grew into a playoff-level team with MVP-caliber players and legends of the game. All of this growth culminates in… one playoff series win over a four-season playoff streak.
There’s no better recent season to sum up being a Cardinals fan than the 2021 season. Mediocrity and unfulfilled potential plagued us up until the all-star break. But in true Cardinals fashion, the team performed their annual black magic ritual and pulled off one of the most exciting win streaks in baseball history, winning 17 straight games to put them right into the playoffs. This team was looking dangerous. We had all-stars at multiple positions. We had the manager of the year.
We lost the wild card game on a heartbreaking walk-off home run.
And just like that, that season that started out as one to forget, then turned magical run with incredible energy, turned right back into one with disappointment and unfulfilled potential. You can’t hang a banner for a win streak.
But hey, at least we have the second most World Series titles out of any team. And at least we have the triumph of the 2011 World Series, which was so ridiculous that I have vivid memories of me as a 7-year-old who had no care for sports celebrating the most miraculous victory in baseball history as wildly as I could.
The 2019 NHL season is a special one for the St. Louis Blues. From being dead last at the trade deadline to pulling off an impressive run to get into the playoffs, then winning the whole damn Stanley Cup, to everyone’s surprise. Why can St. Louis teams only succeed if they have to pull off the most improbable run to get there?
I’ve only been to one Blues game in my life, and it was the season before they won. But my family had a neighbor who was a die-hard hockey fan and loved the Blues. We would watch games with him during the playoffs in 2019 and got to experience the euphoria of his goal-celebrating air horn. Yes, he would pull out an air horn and blow it every single time the Blues scored a goal. I don’t think anyone minded his disturbances by the time the Blues won game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
I don’t really care for hockey. But being able to watch a team representing my city actually win something was one of my most exciting experiences as a sports fan. The phrase for that run was to “Play Gloria,” the 1982 Laura Branigan song that actually has nothing to do with hockey and was just liked by the players, who would play it after every win. The ritual, of course, caught on. I think I heard that song more than any other song in that 2-month span when the Blues won the cup.
The Blues have been completely unable to replicate this success since that season, but if that’s the tradeoff for winning a championship, then maybe it’s worth it.
Meet Me In St. Louis
What am I getting at? St. Louis is lucky to have such well-ran sports teams, even if most seasons end in disappointment these days. At the end of the day, only one team will be able to win. And for a couple of teams that reside in the undesirable midwest, far-flung from deep-pocketed owners and attractive lifestyles, all you can hope for is a flash in the pan every few years.
I’d continue to support my St. Louis teams, even if they never win anything again. At the end of the day, it’s about having something to support that’s bigger than myself. And with the new soccer team, there are more opportunities than ever for me to join a group of people who just want to care about the same thing, at the same time, in the same place.
Just as long as our teams are better than Chicago’s.